A hearing tonight in Corning, NY marks the fourth and final public hearing on the state’s environmental review of natural gas drilling in the Marcellus Shale. The public has had since Sept. 30, when the review was released by the Department of Environmental Conservation, to study the 800-plus page document. Since the first hearing on Oct. 28, there have been vocal protests about the short length of the comment period – 60 days – and the small number of hearings.

On Nov. 4, the DEC responded to those complaints by extending the public comment period by a month, to Dec. 31. But no additional public hearings have been added. Once the comment period ends and the environmental review is approved, drilling companies are expected to get the green light to begin tapping the Marcellus Shale in New York using a technique called hydraulic fracturing, a deep drilling method opposed by environmentalists.

The hearings – which the DEC had hoped would draw specific critiques of the document but have served more as a general protest of the drilling process – have drawn large crowds from across the state. While no additional hearings are scheduled, the DEC points out that there are other ways for the public to participate. Comments will be accepted through online submission, email and mail through the end of the year. (You can read more about it here.)